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Jolyon Drew: History trainee

Jolyon Drew: History trainee

Cohort 2018/19

7th June 2019

A green lever arch folder lurks under my desk, in the bottom of my filing cabinet. Waiting. It has been waiting since September and soon, like an oblong, cardboard butterfly, it will emerge from this steel chrysalis to become a beautiful QTS portfolio (a portfolio that demonstrates how I have met the official Teachers’ Standards and, therefore, how I have developed from a novice to a newly qualified teacher!). It will be packed from cover to cover with reports, plans, correspondence and a few images. It will be neatly sorted using dividers. It will be labelled with brightly coloured, annotated post-its. It will – but right now it is a carefully stacked pile of A4 paper with the odd yellow post-it here and there, to give it the semblance of organisation. 

In one week, this will be presented to a panel who will judge whether I have passed my training year or not!

This final term has been both busier and easier than the others. Besides creating a portfolio for my final assessment, my timetable is full up with classes which I have been taking over gradually since September, which has meant that I have been able to adjust to the workload more easily even though it has increased a great deal since September. At the same time, I have been able to really focus on improving my teaching as more and more aspects become increasingly polished and I am challenged to hone specific details and test out new practices. Outside the classroom, there have been more trips to help with and clubs to supervise. These extra-curricular roles have made my school experience especially rewarding because I have been able to build better relationships with staff and students. Having built these up and become more embedded on the school community, my classroom practice has become more personalised and relaxed.  

Although I have been training for nearly an entire school year, there are lessons where it feels like nothing goes right and I seem to have forgotten everything I thought I had learned. I might find myself thinking: am I actually ready to hand over this portfolio?! I look over that neatly stacked pile of paper and post-its. Amongst the various pages of old lessons, observations and reflections which make up the nascent portfolio, I can see that I have managed to change from someone who only had the appearance of a teacher, with the obligatory lanyard and ever-present board marker to someone who can really teach. Hopefully, when the green portfolio emerges, the panel will see that too!

 

12th February 2019

After Christmas, it was time for my contrasting placement I was quite excited and a little anxious: there was a new morning routine to work out, names to learn and lessons to plan. But, I felt that I had begun to understand what being a teacher was all about, so it couldn’t be more difficult than the learning curve I had taken in my first term, could it? Although my new school was not far away from my main placement, I had heard that the students could be more challenging than at my main placement school. From a visit I made there, it seemed like the other schools I had experienced. So why did other trainees say that it would be such a contrast? How could it be so much different from my first placement?

After the Christmas break, I jumped straight back into work, no INSET day, just Year 7, Period 1, Monday morning. Have you ever been in a situation which you entered thinking that you had everything figured out and within 5 minutes your plan has gone out of the window? That is what happened. My seating plan, although it included all the correct names, had students sitting in all the wrong places. The pattern of the plan just didn’t match the tables and chairs I had in front of me. It was not a great start. Within that first five minutes, one pupil produced a perfume they’d got for Christmas and sprayed it while I was not looking, concealing the bottle in their bag once I turned towards them. Sadly, this pupil had forgotten that the scent of the perfume would get stronger the closer you got to the source! And so it was that, in my first five minutes of the year, I gave out my first detention. 

I quickly became invested in the school and the students and settled in with plenty of help from the staff there.  Despite this, I began to miss my first placement and the people there. I realised that I was more attached to my students than I had thought. They were ‘my’ classes that I was looking forward to seeing again. I felt really confident about returning to my first placement because I had faced a lot of new challenges and managed them quite well.  I felt that I was more adaptable and able to understand my role as a teacher and how best to conduct classes.

Having returned to my old placement, I could tell how much I had developed and changed as a teacher. Although from this point in the Spring Term I am still learning and changing my style, I have been better able to deal with various challenges more confidently and enjoy the experience that I am having. The learning curve is continuous.  For me, I think it looks like a never-ending loop-the-loop: there is a steep incline to start and then the easy slide down as you become more comfortable with the environment, but with each new challenge, a new loop presents itself.  Often, you feel like you are stuck at the top of the loop, suspended upside down as marking, planning and other responsibilities fly around you demanding attention.  Eventually, however, you make it through and everything settles again and you realise that, actually, you are really starting to enjoy it.

 

7th December 2018

I have just finished a calamitous Year 8 lesson in which I attempted to get the class doing group work discussing our topic.  There were timing issues, there was noise, and we never made it to the final written task.  It is safe to say that it wasn’t a complete success and I spent a fair bit of energy conducting the class.  However, despite all these challenges, it feels so satisfying to have created the lesson and spent a couple of periods discussing different subjects with the students. It is a far cry from other work I have done, but I am very happy to have embarked on a career in teaching.

I have taken the long way around to teaching. I got a taste for it working at summer schools during my undergraduate degree nine years ago but decided that, after graduation, I would check out other types of work that I had considered.  This led me to long days at a tax firm, the buzz of auction houses and behind the scenes at the British Museum. All the while, I was tutoring in the evenings and I was never far away from the teaching and learning environment. None of my experiences matched the joy that I found as a teacher and tutor and I decided once-and-for-all to get qualified.

There are many teacher-training courses out there and it is difficult to know which to choose. For me, it was important to be at a school from day one so I could immediately build my skills and knowledge and get a better understanding of what working in a school is like.  A School Direct route was obvious, but choosing which provider took a lot more research. I was very impressed with the Harris team and the reputation of the Harris Federation, so, for me, it was an obvious choice.  My faith in my choice of course has definitely been rewarded. I was anxious to impress in my interview and, having come from a corporate environment, I was less relaxed and more formal than usual.  The team at Harris ITE were incredibly welcoming and quickly put me at ease while keeping things professional – even more so after they pretended to be disruptive students for 10 minutes!  They have been incredibly supportive and helpful throughout my first term.

Training to teach can be chaotic, maddening and hard but it is always satisfying and often enjoyable! Fortunately, I have a wonderful team to work with at Harris Academy Morden.  My colleagues made it clear from day one that no questions were silly and involvement in the lessons I observed was encouraged. So, I determined to ask questions on most aspects of the classroom from how seating plans were arranged to which colour pen was best for different aspects of board work (I favoured green for key words, but black has big benefits too).  Often, teachers included me in the lessons whether it was to hear my thoughts on a question or to circulate resources, check homework and help students with work. 

In the second half of term, I had a few personal issues which coincided with an impending assignment deadline. Again, my colleagues were brilliantly supportive. Having had a good experience so far, I felt comfortable and happy opening up to my mentor, managing mentor, ITE tutor, as well as other staff. They were all sympathetic and quick to offer help from counselling to time off or lighter workloads. 

The colleagues at my placement have been so important to my experience, but what has been invaluable is the friendship of other trainees with whom I have shared experiences and found support.  During the first weeks, we had diverse experiences including successes and surprises and what helped me to feel happier and competent was that while talking with other trainees I heard similar stories to my own. Steadily, I felt less like I was not doing the right thing or alone in my experience. We learn and take strength from the things we talk about and we are able to unwind together outside of training and school.  Finding this community and being able to share my experiences has been essential to the happiness of my experience.